Pink-sided Junco @ the Wildlife Gallery.

A LIFE BIRD is any species, (or in this, case subspecies) that you have not seen in your life. Well, I got one!

I have have been looking for a Pink-sided Junco my entire life and perhaps I have even seen one. Goddess knows that I have tried to tease one out from the many thousands of “Oregon” type juncos that I have enjoyed lo these decades. Much caution should be used when putting the name “Pink-sided Junco” on a bird one might encounter here in coastal Northern California. Many Oregon Juncos show markings that reflect the Pink-sided. Some can be bluish headed, can have dark lores and be quite pinkish on the flanks.

This bird was found originally on Feb. 18th 2013 by Steve Howell at the Wildlife Gallery as it came into the seed. Steve saw the bird only very briefly and without the aid of binoculars. He let me know that he had seen a provocative bird so I was on the look out. The next day I was “visually slammed” when this BLUISH headed, blackish lored and very pink sided Junco dropped into to patio for two or three seconds. It instantly flushed and headed into the large willow that forms the backdrop for the patio. I was able to get some very poor footage of the bird and then suddenly, it was gone! I did not see the bird until the next day. I was VERY eager to see this bird again. Steve came by with camera and thankfully the bird came in and we were both able to photograph it. This bird is distinct and different from anything I have ever seen. It is very well marked.

Photo by Steve Howell.  Feb.17th 2013

Photo by Steve Howell. Feb.20th 2013

Description: Head, nape and breast, even colored glossy gray-blue, contrasting with the back and flanks. The extent of the gray-blue hood of this bird seems strikingly more expansive than the black hood of the Oregon Junco. Lores contrastingly blackish. Some very little blackish smudging on the chin. Eye dark. Bill light pink. Back brown with no hint of rust or warmth. Shows faint (4 or 5) slightly darker streaks on the back. Flanks pinkish, fully colored and extensive in area. The extent of the flank color was so expansive that it nearly met in the center and continues to the very rear end of the flanks. There is however a thin white strip up the middle of the belly. Rump, gray-blue. Tail, central feathers blackish with gray-blue edges, outer tail feathers, largely white. When viewed from the side, the only white showing on the bird are its striking under tail coverts and edge of the closed tail. The tertials are dark centered and are edged thinly in buff. The lesser wing coverts are gray-blue. The greater wing coverts are dark centered and edged thinly with brown on the inner feathers. The outer ones are edged with gray-blue. Legs, dusky pinkish.   The bird has not been seen next to any other Juncos for direct size comparison.

Photo by Steve Howell, Feb. 19th 2013

Photo by Steve Howell, Feb. 20th 2013

While I hope the Pink-sided Junco reappears, it was last seen at the gallery on Feb. 23rd 2013.

          How’s this for an interesting twist.

 PRBO biologists Khara Strum and Ryan Di Gaudio came by the gallery to look for the bird but were unsuccessful. However, the next day Khara took these photos at their feeder and sent them to me!!! Whether this is the same bird looking slightly different because of lighting, camera… I’m not sure, but this bird also appears to be a (or the) Pink-sided Junco!!!

Photographed by Khara Feb. 25th 2013, (About 1/4 mile from The Wildlife Gallery)

Photographed by Khara Feb. 25th 2013, (About 1/4 mile from The Wildlife Gallery)

Pink-sided Junco, Khara, Feb. 25th 2013

Pink-sided Junco, Khara, Feb. 25th 2013

Keith’s new Web Site with Sierra Prints

Small Owls of the Sierra Nevada

Welcome back to my Blog.

I am very excited!

I am sitting in my gallery and enjoying the sound of happily feeding sparrows out in the patio & looking forward to getting back to my blog.

SO much has been happening since I last posted. I have recently finished a 14 year project creating numerous watercolor images for a book entitled, “Birds of the Sierra Nevada, Their Natural History, Status & Distribution”. This richly worded and informative resource was written by Edward Beedy, Ed Pandolfino & was illustrated by Keith Hansen. I have completed the last of 70 plates, depicting the various species that inhabit that grand mountain range. I will be posting MUCH more about the book and its release, very soon.

I’m happy to announce the release of my New Web Site! You can dive into some of my work by going to the link below.

www.keithhansen.com

BIRDS OF THE SIERRA NEVADA

LIMITED EDITION PRINTS

Limited Edition Prints of each of the 70 plates are now available. Please find your way into the site where you will, for the first time, be able to see each of the 70 plates that depict the 320 species that I have had the pleasure of getting to know in a very deep and personal way. While this process has been lengthy, it has given me a great insight & understanding into a unique region and its stunning bird life.

The art or “plates” are laid out in the order that they were created with the “Loon, Cormorant, Pelican” plate being the first one that I started, back in 1998. I chose this order to illustrate the plates, because it seemed logical to create them in “Taxonomic Order“. To see the images enlarged,  click on the image several times to increase their size. Typically I portray from 3 to 6 species per plate, showing the plumage & how it varies depending on the sex, age, race or season. Plates took an average of two months to complete & are largely watercolor, graphite, colored pencil & tiny applications of acrylic.

An important tool that I used throughout this process has been a video camera. Over the years I have taken footage of over 800 species of birds from North America, Mexico & Central America. This footage enables me to have the positions & visual information needed for me to capture their special, wonderful & unique look.

Wrens of the Sierra Nevada

Wrens of the Sierra Nevada

THE PRINTS

The Limited Edition Run is 100 prints for each of the 70 bird plates.

These Geclee Prints are produced on heavy 100% archival stock with deckled edges & are printed at 100%, the size of the original. The Limited Edition Prints measure, 10 1/2  x  17 inches.They are shipped flat and well fortified.

Limited Edition Print Price $125.00

Prints can be ordered & purchased on the Web Site or by calling The Wildlife Gallery at 415 868 0402
or Email Keith at  birdhansen(at)mac(dot)com    If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

Please allow 3 weeks for delivery.

Please stay tuned into this blog and visit the web site as many new products and art pieces will be added.

Enjoy,

Keith Hansen


Bolinas Lagoon Tsunami

On Friday the 11th, Bolinas Lagoon was hit with several surges created from the devastating earthquake that hit Japan. I shot this video footage at about 10:15 AM when at least 4 events took place here. In what typically takes several hours, it was incredible to see the lagoon fill from an OUTGOING low tide to FULL in a little over two minutes. Make sure that when you view this footage that you have the volume up so that you can hear the full power of the surge.

RAPID FIRE ADDITIONS!

What can I say, I’ve been BUSY, but simply HAVE to get some new birds on my carbon free bird list. Here goes.

WAAAAAAY back on October 20th I saw a flock, wait a sec! Is three considered a flock? Well when it comes to Palm Warblers, perhaps. I was biking around the Sewage Ponds when I had a “flock-let” of 3 of these great birds suddenly surround me flitting up and onto Coyote Bush all the while doing their classic tail pumping action. # 230

Now this bird may not seem like such a rare addition to my list but the “way” that I added it might make some people say “Hey, hold on a second”! On October 22nd, Patricia and I were doing our evening beach walk when I saw one of the local beach dogs writhing in complete pleasure on the carcass of some pathetic remains of some poor creature. Shooing the dog off the sandier pastures I bent down and picked up the sad remains of departed glory. The very dead Northern Fulmar, # 231, was just the first of what has turned out to be a very large die off of that species this winter. Why do I count a dead bird on my Carbon Free Big Year list? Well, because country, state and county “bird list keepers” do the same. If the creature arrived naturally to that location in a way that was not “helped” by humans, (as mentioned, this was part of a large die off), then I will put it on my list as well. I have a mammal or two that I have on this years list that were dead.

The next two birds were both added on November 6th and were seen within 20 minutes of each other! We had had a great storm with very high tides the day before. I got out early to hit Pine Gulch hoping for some poor storm swept bird to be forced out of their habitat in the flooded march that borders the Bolinas Lagoon. As I passed the western edge of the large Alder forest I was just about bolled over as high, thin, piercing sound seemingly split the air. WHAM, right over my head a Red-throated Pipit poured out it high frequency “SPEEEEEEeeeeeeee” call. #232.  At my age that type of sound can go unheard at any distance but this was really quite surprising, not only because of the extreme rarity of the species, (from Siberia) but the fact that I was able to hear it so well. I watched the bird, that was perhaps 30 feet off the deck. as it flew way out over the flooded lagoon. At the point when the bird was almost lost from sight, it dropped into the grass that was immersed in about 3 feet of salt water. Well, I was already wet and thought “what the heck”. Before long I had moved to where the bird had plunged and in a very real way I had plunged in as well. Up to, almost my chest, found me slogging around in the high tide, but to no avail. The bird had slipped my grasp.

I headed back to “dry” ground. Just as I had emerged from the fish habitat, I heard a very unusual call and looked up once again to see a new year bird as it passed overhead! Calling only twice and moving at an impressive speed a Lapland Longspur cranked against the wind like a hot knife through… I had only ever seen one of these super gifts from the north anywhere around the Bolinas Lagoon area. #233. I locked onto the bird with my bins and never broke THAT bond for as long as the bird was in view. Well I had it in view for perhaps two minutes which doesn’t sound like much time but that meant that the bird flew in a great circle and move north west and back over the Pine Gulch delta, finally turning into a glittering speck that disappeared into the rain and mist. I was elated!

The next day when everything had settled down and peace befell the land, I headed back to Pine Gulch where I was thrilled to find, another Palm Warbler working the edge of the organic farm field. Bringing my binoculars to bare I savored this little fella as it snatched up tiny winged tidbits. As sometime will happen, a bird popped into my field of view. As almost never happens, this one was even rarer than the “rare” bird that I was already looking at. Imagine my warm smile when this cute Clay-colored Sparrow presented itself. #234. This odd couple hung out together for about 10 minutes affording me much pleasure.

Now I am nearly caught up. Last but not least. A woman stopped into the gallery yesterday and mentioned to me that she had seen “some type of hawk” come out of a burrow near Commonwheal. Well that hawk could be only one thing and that is why I blasted out there today. As I approached the great pile of telephone poles that were discarded long ago by the military, up jumped #235 a Burrowing Owl. This spot has been the one and only reliable place to see this bird in west Marin and while I haven’t heard about, or seen on there for a couple of years, it IS the Burrowing Owl hang out.

A Much Needed POST!

Well, it has been some time since I have added anything to my blog. It is not because I haven’t been trying, I have, but the species just come much more slowly. Here are the most recent additions.

On Sep. 25th I FINALLY caught up to one of those dang, (yet well tailored) Black-throated Gray Warblers #225. Seems that everyone and their dog had been seeing them but I just couldn’t find one of these fine fowl. When I did see it, it was actually with another one, so it suddenly seemed that they were everywhere. Since that day, I have found them to be numerous.

My next addition came in the form of a truly rare bird. I got a call from Steve Howell when he was helping some PRBO, (Point Reyes Bird Observatory) folk on their “Bird-a-Thon”. He had located an Orchard Oriole and a Philadelphia Vireo at the Stinson Beach Parking Lot. This now well-known birding spot has played host to numerous rare birds and these were two more fine finds for the “patch”. The next day, (Sep. 30th), I decided that I would give them a try and see what I could come up with. I rode over at about 9:00 AM and was delighted to see not only David Wimpheimer, (who was doing his Bird-a-Thon by bike), but Jim White and Dave McKinsey as well. The cool thing about this scene was that each of us had come there in hopes of finding these birds AND we had all come long distances BY BIKE, carbon free. That was a first for me! David from Inverness, Jim and Dave from Muir Beach and myself from Bolinas. When I pulled into the parking lot they were already there and were grinning from ear to ear as they “high fived” and gave me the thumbs up! I thought to myself, I’ve got it locked up, they must have seen one or perhaps both of the rare birds. As it turned out they were looking at the Philadelphia Vireo just as I pulled into the parking lot. I went to work scouring the willows, pishing every bird in as well as I could and filtering through every single movement and sound that presented itself. No luck, seconds turned to minutes. Minutes turned to an hour and nothing. The others were getting anxious and wanted to continue on with their day, but I decided to keep at it. I was just about to give up when a Vireo flew across the road and lit on an Alder twig near me and I jerked the binoculars up quickly. It was a Warbling Vireo, the nearly identical cousin of the “Phili”. Right then a second bird flew in to join the first and once again… a Warbling! I climbed onto my bike and was saying my goodbyes to the gang when a THIRD bird came blasting in and that was the magic that I had been waiting for. Philadelphia Vireo! # 226. None of us were able to locate the Orchard Oriole but we all felt immensely satisfied.

My next addition came the next day, (Oct. 1st), at Pine Gulch Creek when Steve and I decided to give the spot a thorough going over. We found ourselves in a rather large feeding flock when Steve spotted a goodie. I looked up to see, realize, identify and enjoy a Nashville Warbler! #227.

Ten days later would find me adding my next species. Check this out! It was late in the day on Oct. 11th and I was getting ready to close up the gallery when I heard an odd “chip” note coming from the neighbors yard. It was a loud, incessant note that really was unusual to me. If I was to describe it, I would say that it was a flat “SHACK” note with a dry front, ending with a hard smacking end. I was intrigued, grabbed the video camera, my “binz”, (short for binoculars) and went into the back yard for a look see. I stood there for a moment not really knowing what to expect and began my repertoire of “squeaks”, “hoots” and “pishes”. Nothing popped up, stirred or responded to my wall of sound. After perhaps 5 minutes of these ridiculous sounds, I was about to give up when a large warbler flew past me of the genus “Oporornis”! I was stunned because this could have several ramifications. The only typically occurring Oporornis we have here in the western US is the MacGillivray’s Warbler and this bird, (assuming the odd sound that I heard was the same bird that I now found flying past my eyes) didn’t sound like any MacGillivray’s Warbler that I had ever heard! Typical of this genus, the bird made a headlong dive into the deepest, darkest patch of impenetrable, thorn shrouded blackberries. I froze solid, continuing to squeak, pish and pray to any GOD that would listen. Well, twas not to be. Knowing that this was in fact an Oporornis and realizing that I have yet to see any species of that genus this year, it will have to go officially onto the Carbon Free Big Year list as an “Oporornis sp.” (species) unknown. #228. My gut feeling is that this bird was a Mourning Warbler, a species that is on the California Bird Record Committee’s review list and is a heck of a rare bird. Oh well, ya can’t win them all!

My last addition was one for the books, that is if the book was entitled “Serendipity Birding”. On the morning of  October 12th, I was on my way to hit Pine Gulch Creek with a vengeance peddling past the row crops that border the road out of town. Suddenly, I spotted my friend and fellow Carbon Free Birding pal Burr Heneman, coming toward me on his bike. We stopped and found that the spot that we crossed paths was the exact spot that we typically meet in the morning when we DO set up plans to meet. Today, however was just fate and I asked if he was going birding or what? He was actually on his way to a breakfast engagement and had to keep moving. Right at that moment I happened to do a quick scan. Way off, (perhaps 300 meters away) I spotted an odd sized bird alone and out on a bit of brush. At that moment a loose flock of Western Meadowlarks sprinkled down around this bird affording me a size relation to this unknown bird. It was larger than any sparrow but not as large as the meadowlarks. I don’t know what came over me but I blurted out “That’s a BOBOLINK”! Burr kind of uttered something along the line of “Come on Keith”! I mean that this bird was quite a long ways away, the lighting was really bad and it is such a rare bird that I was kind of pushing the realm of reason. Burr was just kind of quiet after that. Without warning the mystery bird took wing and began to tower up, up and away. I thought this is not good, as migrants will sometimes stop for a moment or so and then continue on their journey. I noticed that this bird had very ling pointy wings with a short pointy tail to go along with its attenuated “look”.  Thankfully, the bird momentarily lost its wanderlust and dropped back down, but another 100 meters further out in the field, landing on a tall piece of weed. I said “Let’s BLAST over there and get a closer look”! There was some ground to cover and I think I saw Burr look at his watch as he was already late for pancakes and OJ at his friends house. I started moving as fast as I could in hopes that it would stick to its weed. We covered pavement, then dirt, had to slip through a large fence and run about 200 meters. The bird had moved and I was crestfallen. With unbelievable luck I spotted it again, only this time from much closer. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing! It was in fact a Bobolink dressed in juvenile plumage! #229. Only a few moments later the need to move on sent this vagrant into the air and I never took my eyes off of it. It climbed up, Up, UP and away as it finally leveled off at around 100 meters and proceeded south-east toward San Francisco and points WELL beyond. Bobolinks don’t stop migrating until they reach southern South America. Burr and I “high fived” and laughed out loud at our luck. He had an appointment to keep and I had more birds to find.

A Willow and a Warbler, but NOT a Willow Warbler

I really wanted to try something a little different today. Sometimes when you do that, you gotta get your feet wet! Well. that’s what I did, jumping in with both of them. Pine Gulch Creek formed my path and like a two legged Salmon, I slogged, waded and headed upstream. I pulled myself through sheer veils of spiderwebs spanning the under surface of logs that I was forced to crawl beneath. Banks of Stinging Nettle, were gingerly parted while tendrils of Blackberries snagged and tore at my ankles. There is something so adventuresome about crawling through the dense and tangled riparian realm and getting scratched up, stuck by broken branches, wet up to your “clyde”, as my father would say, and generally roughed up! When you emerge through a narrow and maze-like green portal, it is simply, well… beautiful! The birds love these places as well as it’s wet, buggy, dappled with light and shadow and provides limitless cover.

Flushing a Green Heron, picking through the flocks of foraging insectivores, ie. warblers, tanagers, flycatchers and spooking Red-shouldered Hawks from their shady resting place were some of my treats for this hard work. At one point, I encountered a very large flock of birds foraging at all levels. The place was buzzing with life as birds sallied out snapping up this or that flying insect, Western Tanagers bathed and flew up to shake off a thousand glistening droplets from their lime green plumage. In the broad leaves of a very large White Alder I caught a movement. It was unfamiliar and familiar at the same time. My first hit was “what’s that white cock-tailed thing”? One second later, it was momentarily visible between translucent panels of green and WHAM! Chestnut-sided Warbler, my old friend! # 223. Here is a familiar face of pale ash with an “Robin hood green” crown and a crisp thin, white “Teddy Roosevelt spectacle” of an eye-ring. Its tail is held up and out, a curious under appreciated feature of this songster of the eastern woodlands. While it lacked the namesake chestnut sides of an adult male, this bird is quite lovely and one I will not soon forget.

I was feeling great after encountering this exquisite lost sole and wasn’t expecting to be treated again to such a face slam when a quick movement grabbed my eye in the next willow. With an audible snap of its bill and a speedy return to its initial foraging perch I knew I would be staring at a flycatcher. Imagine my pleasant surprise when the bird looked at me through eyes that were not encircled with an eye-ring! It could mean only one thing, a Willow Flycatcher, # 224. This threatened species in California is thankfully fairly regular in the fall in west Marin and I was expecting to be blessed by one any day. Today was my day!

Later there was a big lazy adult Bald Eagle that made its presence known in downtown Bolinas as it floated slowly back and fourth as happy folks flowed out of Smilies Schooner Saloon and gazed toward the sky!

#223

One Gift From the North, One From the East, One From the West and one from All Around.

I have had the remarkable privilege and life enriching pleasure to meet one of the worlds most acclaimed bird artist’s, Sweden’s Lars Jonsson. I received a call from my friend Peter Pyle asking me if I would like to meet Lars and his wife Ragnhild. They were traveling through California and wanted to meet with Peter to talk about various aspects of bird molt, which Peter is an expert on. I, of course said “YES”!!! As it turned out they came up the next day and my wife and I hosted them at our home in Bolinas. We were all joined by Steve Howell (who just came out with a new book on Molt in North American Birds) as well as Burr Heneman for a wonderful dinner. Lars, upon arriving at our place, quickly found a spot where he had a nice view of some Western Gulls, pulled out his sketch book and watercolors and began to paint an immature bird that was sleeping on the mud flat. In no more than 20 minutes, he had created the most beautiful image of a bird that I think most of us simply glance over.

The next day we all went birding down at Pine Gulch Creek on the edge of the Bolinas Lagoon. I couldn’t have been more excited to have spent time with these two delightful people. Upon entering the willow and alder forest that borders the stream, we quickly became aware that there had been some large movement of birds the night before. The trees were alive with the sounds of vireos, warblers and flycatchers. A Fox Sparrow popped up, the seasons first, followed by grosbeaks and tanagers. Suddenly Steve called out “CANADA WARBLER”! Sure enough, some 12 feet up in the alders was this subtly marked and quite “Wilson’s Warbler-like” bird with very subdued plumage. This gift from the north, #219 was a rare treat as I have seen perhaps 6 or 7 in Marin County. We moved through the trees and out on to the delta to look at the molt of gulls and waterfowl. Lars and the boys “dug deep” into some very interesting concepts, debates and theories on the subtle variations of birds plumages. After that we let Lars enjoy the serenity of the area by letting him go off on his own to sketch and paint. When he came home that evening he had some beautiful images of immature California Gulls and Elegant Tern.

The next morning they headed up to Yosemite and then beyond, out to the Rocky Mountains. Since that meeting with a master, I have been so inspired and have been enjoying the out of doors with an enriched and renewed spirit.

Yesterday the 13th of September, I headed back to my favorite patch and birded it hard. On the way past the large plowed field near the Bolinas Elementary School I decided to do some scanning and was rewarded with a bird that I had hoped to see there for many years. Way off in the distance I spotted a kingbird fly-catching from some old fence posts. I ditched my bike in the blackberry bushes, careful not to puncture the tires and made my way, way-away across this large field. As I got closer to this yellow bellied bird I quickly realized that its tail was missing! This presented a problem. Having a very pale ashy colored breast assured me that this was not a Cassin’s Kingbird, so it would be a matter of figuring whether the bird was a Western or a Tropical Kingbird. The problem is that the key feature for these two species lies in tail. The Western has a square black tail with crisp white outer tail feathers and the Tropical possesses a very dark gray, forked tail, with no white. There was only one thing that I could do to lock down the id. I had to get very close to determine the bill size. The Western has a rather small bill while the Tropical is blessed with a real honker. This bird was on the move and was covering ground. At one point a VERY large, lime green katydid sprang up from the weeds and made the fatal error of, well, being seen! The kingbird was on it like winged metal to a flying magnet, and BLAM, that was it. The leggy creature flapped and clawed at the predators head but with a few quick smacks, the squirming meal was dispatched. Next it was dismembered and consumed by a kingbird with a rather small bill. This gift from the west, a Western Kingbird was #220. Later that day I also had a Bairds’ Sandpiper on the tip of Sea Drift as well as a Parasitic Jaeger messing with Elegant Terns. A “funny” juvenile bunting has shown up at my gallery with marks that look as if it may be a hybrid between a Lazuli and an Indigo Bunting.

Today I winged my way back to Pine Gulch as this patch has been very good to me lately and it didn’t disappoint! I arrived at the multicolored bridge that crosses the creek and the VERY FIRST bird that I looked at was a gift from the east, Tennessee to be exact! This crisp lime green Tennessee Warbler # 221. I pushed on past many migrants as I birded hard to try and pull out something else that would be new. Although there were many migrants, it wasn’t until I reached the delta that I would be blessed with a gift “from all around”. This came in the form of a first year Common Tern, # 222! This tired looking sterna was out scaled by the gulls that crowded around. I got close enough to see the longer legs and bigger bill that ruled out Arctic Tern and then backed off without scaring it off. The quest continues!